He had grown sick of everything. The corrugated gutter that was so rusted until it swept torrents of water into his room when it was raining. The harsh fluorescent lights which gave his skin a shallow yellow hue. The cold cement floor that had sunk in the middle covered with a threadbare carpet that had discoloured into an unidentifiable shade of gray.
Day in day out, he passed by the same street, heard the same din, whiffed the same smell and watched the same scene on his way to work. The only thing that was different, he noticed, was the ever changing fashion of the mannequins. Red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue. Ah it reminds him of his nanochromatic series Ipod. His best friend nowadays. He can only find solace in the soulful songs emitted by his bright red Ipod Nano.
In his job, so mired in routine he was that he felt mechanical, almost robotic, as if he was part of the fittings in the office. Typical eight to five, with an official one hour break in between and unofficial 2-3 hours coffee time when he felt like it. Nothing exciting. Nothing fun. Just enough money for him to live by.
That’s why he had decided to leave everything for good, and started afresh somewhere else before he went crazy in this little hole.
He had his bags packed, his considerable amount of junks shipped to the new town, his house now threadbare save for the bed with broken springs and some essential toiletries. Flight tickets in hand, he went to his old hunt for one last drink, paying the aging bartender his last 5 dollar tip.
He was tending to his drink, contemplating about his quantum leap, when she appeared again.
“Hi,” she greeted, before climbing up on the stool adjacent to him.
“Hi,” he replied.
For the past two years, she had been a permanent fixture of his pub visits. Whenever he made an appearance, she will spring up from somewhere and slink to the seat next to him.
“How’s everything? Haven’t seen you for the past week.”
“Been packing. I’m leaving.”
“To where?” she was astonished at the revelation. “The company sent you on a road trip?”
“No. I’m leaving this town for good.”
She was stunned. “Why?”
“Because I’m tired of this town.”
“No. Don’t leave.”
“Well, I don’t know. You got a stable job, you got a house, you…”
“Give me a good reason not to leave.”
“I like you. Can you not leave now?”
He was stunned. But He left anyway.
At the airport on that day, she clung to his arm, tears of sadness drained down her cheeks. “You will return and see me one day, right?” she queried, again and again.
Silence was the only word he can offer.
He had an impulse to say ‘To hell with everything”, stayed back and give life with her a try. But he didn’t. He just offered her a wave, a lingering look and a barrage of ‘what ifs’ swimming in her head.
He never went back.
“I was this close to get your mother,” he demonstrated which his thumb and forefingers, with the space between the two digits thinner than a piece of A4 paper.
“What was the main reason you didn’t stay?” her son enquired.
“Well,” he paused, musing over memories three decades past. “I think the hassle and impracticality of it was the main reason. I had packed and shipped everything, resigned from my job and sold my house. Besides it took me 2 months to make up my mind to take that step to go away.”
“Didn’t you notice my mum always liked you? She told me that she went to the pub every day just so she can meet up with you.”
“I didn’t really notice that,” he admitted “Until she told me. I think I was too mired in the unhappy world of mine.”
“But,” he added, ‘I did think hard about staying. But the thought of the $2000 flight ticket gone to waste, the hassle of needing to find a new job and house and take a step into the unknown… that’s too much for me to take.”
“Besides,” he shrugged, “Life’s no fairy tale. Life’s not like the movies where everyone has a happy ending. No, in real life I wager there isn’t a single guy whom after stepping into the departure hall, will change his mind and run back out. Besides, the security will stop him.”
“We humans are different from animals because we can think reasonably,” he declared with an air of righteousness.
Her son heaved a sigh of regret. “I guess that's life. Too full of rational thoughts and unstated rules that chained and locked you to the ground, ruthlessly extinguishing any instinct and impulse to do things you want.”